overdose

Kristin Gourlay / RIPR

More than 1,000 Rhode Islanders have died from accidental drug overdoses in the past five years. Many more have been revived, thanks to first responders and emergency room workers.

Kristin Gourlay / RIPR

State lawmakers will consider several bills designed to fight opioid addiction and overdose deaths.

The Senate Committee on Health and Human Services has scheduled a suite of bills designed to address the state’s ongoing heroin and prescription drug crisis. One would mandate insurance coverage for at least 90 days of inpatient addiction treatment for patients who meet certain standards. That’s in contrast to the 30 days or less most insurers allow. 

Aaron Read / RIPR

Rhode Island health officials are calling on the Food and Drug Administration to warn consumers about the danger of combining prescription painkillers with anti-anxiety medications. That combination has fueled a rising number of accidental drug overdose deaths.

Kristin Gourlay / RIPR

State police handed out supplies of Narcan, the overdose rescue drug, to municipal police departments from around Rhode Island Tuesday. Most first responders carry the drug, but not all police departments have stocked up. 

Kristin Gourlay / RIPR

Rhode Island’s drug overdose epidemic has not abated. But there has been some progress in marshaling more resources to fight it. The General Assembly recently reinstated the Good Samaritan law, which protects people who call 911 for someone who’s overdosing. 

Jake Bissaro / The Providence Center

State lawmakers gathered for the signing of the newly reinstated Good Samaritan Overdose Law. The law expired last summer, much to the chagrin of public health advocates.

The law protects people who call 911 for someone who's overdosing from being arrested.

Going forward the law will protect people from being charged for drug possession or use, and from being picked up for violating probation.

Lawmakers put an expiration date on the original bill passed in 2012 in case it conflicted with law enforcement.

Kristin Gourlay / RIPR

For every Rhode Islander who has died from a drug overdose, someone is left behind to grieve. And that grief can be complicated. Finding help for dealing with that grief in the Ocean State can be tough. 

Kristin Gourlay / RIPR

Hundreds of Rhode Islanders have died from drug overdoses this year – a number that has barely budged from last year, despite numerous state and other efforts to stop it. One of Governor Raimondo’s initiatives was to convene a task force to tackle this crisis. 

Kristin Gourlay / RIPR

A new General Assembly session is underway, and already the House and Senate are casting votes on critical issues. Rhode Island Public Radio’s Kristin Gourlay has been checking in with leaders in both bodies to find out what their health care legislation priorities are. 

Aaron Read / RIPR

Lawmakers and advocates are applauding the speed with which the general assembly has taken up the Good Samaritan Law.

The state senate voted to renew the law, which provides legal protection for those calling 9-1-1 in the event of an overdose emergency. However, the bill does not protect those found to be delivering or selling drugs.

Kristin Gourlay / RIPR

Brown University’s medical school has teamed up with Rhode Island Hospital to teach future doctors how to address opioid addiction and overdose. They’re using a nearly $1million federal dollar grant to create a new curriculum.

And the need could not be more urgent. Just last week the Centers for Disease Control reported that half a million Americans have died from accidental drug overdoses in the past 15 years, mostly involving prescription painkillers and increasingly heroin.

Kristin Gourlay / RIPR

Health department officials have a plan to compel more doctors to use a prescription drug monitoring program. That’s one piece of the effort to fight opioid addiction and overdose.

A prescription drug monitoring program, or PDMP, is an online database. It’s supposed to help anyone who prescribes controlled substances like painkillers or anxiety medications look up a patient’s history with those drugs. The idea is to spot signs of trouble, like dangerous drug combinations, or addiction. 

RI Overdose Prevention and Intervention Task Force

To tackle an epidemic at the population level, you need data. Lots and lots of data. That's especially true with our state, and our nation's, opioid addiction and overdose death epidemic. Scientists need to know who's using? Where? When? Why? How do they get started? Who supplies them? What else were they taking when they died? What are the other factors in their lives or communities contributing to the problem? 

Rhode Island’s health department is looking for help encouraging doctors to use a database that monitors prescription drugs. The department is adding four new positions to a new team to fight addiction and overdose.

Rhode Island received a four-year, nearly $4 million dollar grant earlier this year to fight rising rates of addiction and overdose deaths. Now the department of health is ready to put that money to use, hiring four new staffers. First, an outreach coordinator to help promote the state’s prescription drug monitoring program.

Kristin Gourlay / RIPR

Former Rhode Island Congressman Patrick Kennedy is in town speaking with the addiction and mental health community. 

Kennedy has been advocating for better and more accessible treatment for addiction and mental illness for years. In 2013 he launched the Kennedy Forum to help focus those efforts.

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